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Dom Hemingway


‘…Dom Hemingway is a fascinating, vital character, and Shepard’s film gives him plenty of opportunity to vent his spleen through a memorably full-on performance from Law…’

Yesterday’s positive report about Jude Law in Peter Pan & Wendy provoked a look back at the actor’s progress; he’s gone from laughing stock to MVP, and the place the transformation kicked in was round about 2013’s Dom Hemingway. Those of us who wrote of Law as just a pretty boy actor have been proved wrong over time; sure, it’s easy to deride his performance in The Holiday, but Law’s career as a leading man got a shot in the arm from Richard Shepard’s tough, abrasive gangster drama, featuring Law as the crim Dom Hemingway.

Introduced via a truly hypnotic monologue delivered from inside prison (‘ Misfortune befell me,’ he complains), Hemingway springs out from the stripey hole into the outside world with a vengeance, chasing after money he’s owed and prepared to administer beating after beating on the way. Hemingway hooks up with his old pal Dickie (Richard E Grant), to find that the world has gone to the dogs while he’s been behind bars. No longer able to smoke in pubs, his wife has gone and his daughter doesn’t want anything to do with him. Dom and Dickie head for the South of France to track down the inevitable stash of missing money, and end up in a drugs, booze and sex romp that leaves Hemingway feeling both broke and vengeful.

Although the revenge narrative is more conventional, Law makes Hemingway a shockingly original force of nature, and the opening scenes are wildly unpredictable as Dom faces up to various gangster types. And things are brought to a head in an extended scene where Dom attempts to prove that he’s still got the skills to crack a safe, although the manner in which he does so it shocking and surprising- ‘ And that, my friends, is how you open a safe!’ Those who wrote him off have to eat our words; Law has the charisma of Michael Caine updated in these scenes, puffed up, arrogant and yet with a few clear chinks in his personality to explore.

Widely ignored in the UK, where violent gangster flick are ten-a-penny, Dom Hemingway’s antics are not for everyone; Dom’s attitudes to sex, money and women are decidedly retro and not on message for today’s milquetoast media. But Dom Hemingway is a fascinating, vital character, and Shepard’s film gives him plenty of opportunity to vent his spleen through a memorably full-on performance from Law, including the following monologue which perfectly captures the relaxed, carefree mood of modern 21st century Britain. ” Oh. I’ll tell you who I am. I’m the f*****r who’ll tear your nose off with my teeth. I’m the f*****r who will gut you with a dull cheese knife and sing Gilbert and Sullivan while I do it. I’m the f*****r who’ll dump your dead body in a freezing cold lake and watch you sink to the bottom like so much sh*t. I am that f*****r. That’s the f*****r who I am.’


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  1. I’ve always liked Jude Law, he has real charisma, in a similar way to Brad Pitt, who was also derided early on for his good looks and acting ability.

    In Talented Mr Ripley (1999) Jude is really good, channeling a bit of Alain Delon perhaps… so I think he ‘earned respect’ way earlier than 2013.

    When you look at his roles for Scorsese, Spielberg, even Wong Kar Wai (contrary to popular opinion I like his character in this film!), there is something definitely working very well about what he’s doing.

    Anyway, the only thing putting me off about watching this film is the smell of a Sexy Beast knock-off, replete with foul mouthed rant infused with poetical flourishes.

    • Yes, Ripley was a breakthrough performance for sure. But leaning into his charm in Alfie and other stuff didn’t play so well. It’s when he started playing grittier character that he really showed range. It took me a long while to admit that he is a great screen actor these days. Total variety of roles.

    • And yes, slightly different genre to Sexy Beast, not quite so Pinteresque. Not glib mockney stuff, but a character study with energy.

  2. Interesting that you mention Caine in conjunction with Law. The little bits I’ve seen of both, they remind me of the other in a quiet, vague way.

  3. never heard of this before, will try track it down some time. I liked the Ray donovan series so many years ago, I am guessing this goes more or less i that direction?

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